An American in Europe! (Canterbury, Dover, and Calais)

Hey, all!

Welcome to the *final* installment of my adventures traveling around the UK/Ireland during the winter holidays. There’s lots of things that happened over the last few days of my travels, so let’s get to them!

Spent my last day in London at two locations: Camden Market (a neighborhood in northwest London that is a major shopping center, consisting of both indoor and outdoor markets) and Primark, which is actually a chain-clothing store that sells trendy clothes for super cheap (there’s many through the UK, Ireland, France, even Belgium!). Bought some new clothes, explored a bit of Camden Town, and left London for good around 11h30.

My next point-of-interest was Canterbury, England, made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which I had read back in college. Not a big town at all, as I was able to see the main attractions in less than two hours. The castle and the cathedral were fantastic- unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see St. Augustine’s Abbey, as it was closed to the public during the winter. What a shame! 😦

Canterbury Cathedral.
Canterbury Cathedral.
Inside Canterbury Castle.
Inside Canterbury Castle.

I had arrived in Canterbury around 13h00, and had four hours to kill before the bus to Dover arrived. After hitting the main attractions in under two hours, I spent the rest wandering High Street, Canterbury’s main, touristy road, as well as checking out a couple of boutiques there.

Bus was a bit late arriving, but eventually I took the thirty-minute ride to Dover, where I was to spend the night with a host. Arrived in Dover around 18h15, and my host received me from the bus station. Went over to his flat near the city center, had dinner, and spent the rest of the night talking and getting to know each other over port wine and whatnot. Even popped in a film to watch as we got progressively drunk (stoned, in his case). All in good fun, though; nothing bad happened. However, I was pretty drunk that I didn’t even remember the movie ending; all I do know is that afterwards, I turned in for the night- or rather, crashed. I was so tired that I knocked out immediately.

Woke up the next morning around 8h00, with a moderate hungover. Freshened up, had breakfast, and decided to head out close to 10h00 to explore a bit of Dover before catching my ferry back to France. Said goodbye to my host, thanking him for the stay, and set off for Dover Castle. Quite a hike up to the top, where the castle was situated, but nevertheless arrived and took a couple of photos before heading to the white cliffs of Dover, made famous in Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Got a bit lost trying to find how to get to the white cliffs, but eventually made my way over. Again, another hike up to the top, where one can get a beautiful view of the port of Dover, the city itself, and Dover Castle. As well as (part of) the white cliffs themselves- a bit disappointing, as I had expected a view of the long stretch along the coast, but then again, I was right on top of them, so wouldn’t have made sense…

Dover Castle.
Dover Castle.
The white cliffs of Dover.
The white cliffs of Dover.

Around 11h15, I made my way over to the port of Dover to check in for my ferry departure to Calais, France. Unfortunately, I had missed my scheduled ferry, as I had to be 45 minutes late to check-in and I had arrived only twenty to thirty minutes beforehand. Thankfully, there was another ferry that was to depart in another hour, so I checked in for that one.

Took the shuttle to the ferry’s entrance, got on-board, and set off around 13h15. Wasn’t feeling super great, as I was still hungover and the combination of that, along with lack of good sleep and strenuous exercise that morning, made me feel in not-so-top shape. In any case, I used that ninety-minute ride to lay my head down and rest. I felt better once I arrived in Calais, back in France.

My host for Calais retrieved me from the port, along with his roommate, who was also a host. Spent about two hours wandering the port town. With it being rather up high north in France, the weather was certainly very chilly. It reminded me of Lille, which is also located in the same region as Calais, albeit closer to Belgium. Frankly, there wasn’t much to see there, except the rather lovely port itself:

Calais, France.
Calais, France.

Afterwards, my host and his roommate were actually spending New Year’s Eve (that day) with some of their friends in a town about two-and-a-half hours away from Calais, so we hit the road soon after. Arrived at their friend’s flat close to 20h00 and, long story short, we spent the entire night eating pierrade (a kind of raclette or KBBQ thing in which one cooks meat on a hot stone surface, served with chips and bread), drinking (we went through countless beers, wine, cider, and champagne- oh my God!), and playing games until 6h30 in the morning. 2016 came relatively quietly, as we were by then drunk and I was super tired, after having been up since 8h00 the previous day. Really, I couldn’t keep up with them; the French really know how to party! 😛

Any case, we all decided to turn in for the night (or rather, day time), so we went to bed at 6h30. I woke up about five hours later, because I couldn’t sleep anymore (very strange…). Spent the next three hours eating some food and chilling out until my hosts woke up to get ready to head to their place to stay. They (finally) woke up around 14h30, and we made the two-and-a-half-hour drive back to their place.

Arrived around 18h00, and dropped my belongings off. My hosts also happened to be hosting four more people in their flat: a German couple with their dog and two Frenchmen from Lille, so it was quite the crowd that night! I also went with my hosts to one of their family’s house a bit outside of the city, to pay them a New Year’s visit. Subsequently had a traditional “French holiday dinner” of foie gras, escargots, deer(?) (which essentially tasted like beef), shrimp, yulelog, and lots of wine (again). 😛 The host’s family was nice, albeit a bit…small-minded when it came to certain things, which I won’t specify due to its long, complicated nature (in general, the people in that area have a pretty particular mind-set).

I was stuffed afterwards, and went back to the flat with my hosts around close to 21h00. Was too tired to drink and play games with them for the rest of the night, and so I showered and turned in.

The following morning was my last day there, along with my last day of traveling; I was set to return home that day. My host drove me to the train station, where I was to meet my BlaBlaCar driver to get back to Normandy (wasn’t taking the train, as it’s more expensive). Thanked and said goodbye to my host, met my driver, and was on my way back home! Journey took a bit over two-and-a-half hours, but finally arrived in Le Havre, where I caught the bus back to my small town. Finally arrived home past 18h30, a bit exhausted, but glad to be home.

…and so there you go! My long trip to the UK/Ireland ends here, although the sentiments have not. It had been my first time visiting there, and I am grateful that I was able to experience what I experienced. Never realized that there was more than I had thought to the area, rich in history and culture that rivaled those in the rest of Europe. I was able to squeeze in a ton of the major cities into sixteen days, as well as seeing the majority of the hot-spots, but at the same time, I know that I should’ve given myself more time to see everything in more detail. Basically, I was rushing from place to place, taking only samples rather than…meals (not the best analogy, I know…). 😛 There were places that I wished that I had covered, but despite the rushing, I still was able to take in the beauty and distinctive identity of the place. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful.

Although I just returned home not too long ago (just over a week), I am already planning for my next vacation in February! Really, the wanderlust is too real- until then, I will keep posting daily, keeping you entertained about anything and everything that interests me. Let’s aim for another excellent year of blogging! 🙂

— The Finicky Cynic

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